Words to live by
A recent run of coincidences has got me thinking about poetry.
First, there was an utterly brilliant and totally unexpected birthday present from a very dear friend. Concealed in the inevitably mundane trappings of the postal service - for all non-bank-related post, I feel the Royal Mail should consider wrapping their parcels in sparkly, or at the very least brightly coloured, paper - was a slim cardboard box. In this cardboard box was a selection of twenty poems: some of which I recognised, whilst others I had never read before. All are beautiful, uplifting and moving. I wish that I could share each and every single one with you. For the purpose of this blog, however, that would be impossible. So here's just a very short taster of one poem by Emily Dickinson to whet your appetite:
If I can stop one heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain; ...
--- Emily Dickinson
In such a simple yet powerful manner, it expresses all that we really want from life: to make a difference.
The second coincidence was stumbling across this article in The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11174094/Poems-to-live-your-life-by.html
The article explores the idea that poetry, rather than being inaccessible, melodramatic and essentially useless, has a role to play in everyday life, because of the way it can capture snapshots of emotion and experience in a few lines. Plus, the fact that Judi Dench learns a new poem every single day was staggering - as if she wasn't already cool enough!
The third and final reason poetry has been on my mind is because of a poem I had previously scribbled down on a piece of paper, which I rediscovered whilst I was slowly, joylessly packing up my things ready for the move back home. I couldn't (and still can't quite) believe that my time as a language assistant was vorbei; after months of early mornings, long weekends, and bright new cities, it was all over. Weirdly enough, the end of the year coincided with two similarly monumental milestones: in the space of four days, I said goodbye to my life in Germany, turned twenty-one and ran the Edinburgh Marathon. Needless to say, given that certain Disney films can reduce me to a blubbering wreck, it was an emotional time. And the marathon-induced blisters didn't help matters.
Anyway. Back to the poem. It's a section from T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets. Throughout this last year - a year which has been simultaneously memorable, unique and incredibly challenging - I have often found myself returning to the poem for reassurance. For days when it seemed that nothing was going according to plan, everything was falling apart, and I was a complete failure who was only good for staying in bed and watching hours of mindless television. For days when the marathon seemed like an impossible dream, and days when it felt like I was turning twenty-one with nothing to show for it. Stupid, I know, but I used to be convinced that I would compete in show jumping, ride for Team GB at the Olympics aged a mere nineteen. That particular ambition I now need to let go. This poem - gently, articulately - reminds me that, no matter what, it's all okay. Here, we can only put a taster of the poem:
'So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years-
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres-
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure ...'
--- T.S. Eliot